Dead Poets Night at Savoy

The Savoy Theater is closed this week for Spring Break, and so we’ve got the night of Wednesday, April 6th for ourselves. We’ll have a screening of this 1989 movie, followed with our own night of poetic recitation.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Cash snack and wine bar is available. Hopefully afterwards a few of us could jaunt over to Langdon Street Cafe, and catch the last bit of their poetry open mic.

I recently rewatched the movie in anticipation of this event, and found myself more moved by it than when I originally viewed it as a teenager so many years ago. Back then, I was a freshman in high school, the same age as Ethan Hawke’s character in the film. And while I spent much of my time not trying to stand out, I didn’t connect with the prep school atmosphere and politics. Besides, how could Robin Williams be anything other than Popeye, or Mork from Ork? It was a stretch that took the whole movie to get over.

Watching it again brought back a nostalgia for my cadre of fellow writers that I had no idea would exist when I was a 15-year-old. I hadn’t met them yet, nor had I bared my soul in our Tuesday afternoon writing group meetings, nor had I discovered that I COULD write, that it was allowed. That I actually wanted so very badly to do this.

We wrote essays about our lives, short stories about imaginary revolutionaries and their lovers, poems about dreams and disappointments. We kept journals, read and discussed books. We were given permission to write whatever we needed to. There was one published author amongst us: Erica, who had published a story in Merlin’s Pen when we were twelve and in the sixth grade.  The rest of us tried very hard and managed to get published in The Dial, our high school literary journal. A few of us sat on the editorial board.

Those four years of rigorous writing established a practice that I keep to this day–(almost) daily writings, writing without fear, but with determination and humor. At 15, I could not fathom that at 34, I would have a wide network of writers (poets especially), that I would be actively publishing and loving it. I have deep gratitude for the teachers that have nurtured and steered my talents. Thanks to Ms. Lewis, who when asked, agreed to be our advisor without batting an eyelash (though she did sometimes ask for more wholesome material from us, we loved her). Thanks also to Ms. Olson, who gave us a great framework for critique, when it came to reading the work of our peers.

This movie is a tribute to teachers. I know now that they all want us to be the best we can be. To be our true selves. But they are also handicapped as we all are by not knowing how our lives will play out. They inspire and hope for the best.

The second part of the evening is meant to remember that poetry is an “aural art”, as Baron Wormser put it the other night. The tradition of poetry was passed from person to person, memorized and recited. They were incantations, psalms, songs and prayers and riddles that one could call upon whenever needed. Everyone is encouraged to come prepared with some memorized material. But not to fear! We will have some books available and participants my read from printed text. That what the boys in the movie did, besides. There are no rules, except to stand up and be a part of the ongoing tradition of poetic recitation.

The Savoy CineClub is on the downstairs level and not wheelchair accessible. This program is part of POETRY Alive! 2011, a joint presentation of the Kellogg-Hubbard Library and Montpelier Alive and is supported in part by the Vermont Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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